Safe Reopening of Schools Statement from Dr. Mercer (August 19, 2020)

August 19, 2020

Residents of Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph,

Yesterday, I met with senior leaders from local school boards to continue our progress toward the shared goal of a robust plan to reopen schools as safely as possible. We have been working with the boards on COVID-19 since February and I remain encouraged by the commitment our partners have shown to be creative and flexible in protecting students and staff from the effects of the global pandemic. Working with Public Health, local school boards have developed strategies for physical distancing, hand hygiene, screening and exclusion, and masks for students and staff in schools. I strongly endorse these efforts. None of this is easy, but I truly believe everyone is working with the safety of our children and teachers as the utmost priority.

In our meeting, I advocated for the mandating of masks for students in Grade 1 and above and strongly encouraged them for children in JK and SK. I was pleased to see Upper Grand District School Board take the step of mandating masks for all students and staff at their meeting yesterday. There are great resources on children and mask use available from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The response to COVID-19 remains the focus of WDG Public Health. Supporting schools throughout our region will be the largest single program undertaken by Public Health this fall. We are adding nursing positions thanks to newly announced funding from the Provincial Government. Those new staff will join current public health professionals to create a team that will directly support each individual school in our region.

Safely reopening our schools is only possible if our entire community acts together to ensure the transmission rates of COVID-19 remain as low as possible in our region. Low infections rates will mean less chance of infections in our schools and more resources to manage outbreaks of the virus. Each of us has the responsibility to practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering, download the COVID-19 tracking app, and avoid large gatherings where possible. Plans to safely reopen our schools can only be as effective as our commitment to tackling COVID-19 together.

Stay well,

Dr. N. J. Mercer, MD, MBA, MPH, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health and CEO
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health